Thursday, July 15, 2010

How Your Social Media Profile Can Affect Your Education and Job Prospects

Social media has taken off in a big way within the past few years. Now Hollywood’s most elite celebrities – and even the White House – have their own Facebook and Twitter pages. But the faces that we are so accustomed to seeing on television are not the only ones on the social media kick – college students are savvy social media users as well, twittering and updating Facebook statuses so deftly that it is surprising to learn that such outlets only became a cultural mainstay as little as five years ago. Yet, the very tools that allow for users from all over the world to stay connected are the very same things that could be sabotaging their education and job prospects.

Many hiring managers now regularly turn to looking up job candidates on social media websites to find out more about the candidate. After all, an applicant’s resume rarely offers a glimpse into his or her personality and work ethic. Seeing how an applicant chooses to present him or herself on social media sites is an excellent way for hiring managers to gauge whether the applicant would be a good fit for the company. Screening job candidates through social media is becoming more commonplace, especially with the ever-increasing popularity of such outlets. In this way, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media venues like Myspace and LinkedIn can be great tools for college students and recent graduates. These sites allow for students to showcase the best traits that they have to offer. However, social media can also be used irresponsibly by young adults. Some users may twitter every passing thought, which sometimes can be decidedly inappropriate or even incriminating.

But employers are not the only ones that college students need to keep in mind when writing on their friend’s Facebook wall or posting up new pictures. Even the students’ schools could use unprofessional conduct on social media against the students. One such case was that of Stacy Snyder, who was a student-teacher at Millersville University. In 2006, Snyder was refused a teaching because the university discovered a photograph labeled "drunken pirate" on her Myspace page, according to the Washington Post. The university felt the photograph indicated that Snyder was not fit to teach due to her inappropriate behavior. The photograph showed Snyder dressed in a pirate hat at an off-campus costume party holding a plastic cup, the content of which was not evident from the picture alone. The case shocked avid users of social media who did not know that their activities on such outlets could be used to deny them an education or a job.

However, students do not have to constantly worry about what consequences their social media use can bring about. The most important thing that students need to keep in mind when enjoying the fun of social media is that their activities can be seen by anyone with access to the Internet – even employers and school officials – so it is better to refrain from posting anything too intimate or scandalous.

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